Oct 17, 2009

Killing Off Your Characters

I've recently been working on a romance novel I started years ago. The characters have been calling out to me to give them a voice and get their story down on paper (or computer screen). I've had all the research done and the outline finished for quite a while, so know exactly how it ends. I was told that in order for a book to fit into the romance genre, it has to end happily with boy getting girl. In the beginning, that is exactly how my book ended, but recently I've been hearing this voice in my head that's urging me to kill off one of the main characters. YIKES!! Now what? Here's the set up:

Jake has been searching for Annie for over 16 years after she disappeared one night with no word. He's spent every dime of his country music career on PIs and still come up empty. As a favor to his agent, he agrees to judge a talent contest in Ketchum, Idaho, hoping to get some time off from the band and long hours of touring. The last participant in the contest is a 15 year old red head girl that sings a song that is familiar to him. He and Annie wrote it together when they were in high school. He tracks the girl down after the contest, finding Annie.

The book continues with him wanting answers and her not willing to give them until he finds out the real reason she left. (not giving this away) The orginal storyline has them getting married and sealed in the temple along with the girl (Sage) being sealed to them. But now I'm thinking Annie may die, leaving Jake to take care of Sage. There's a lot within the story that would make this new storyline make sense and as we know, real life doesn't always end happily ever after, but would this make my readers mad?

I remember watching the movie, "City of Angels" with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage. I was so upset at the end when Meg's character died. But thinking back, it sure was a powerful ending and brought a lot of emotions up, including me crying my eyes out.

So, what do you think? What genre would this alternate ending fit into and how do you think it would be received by my readers? Would you kill off your main character? Have you? And, if I go with the first ending, what would make it more powerful?


  1. Wow. That is an interesting thought. I think you should kill her off. It would make it more powerful. If her death has a purpose to the story and moves the reader, as well as helping Jake to grow, I think your readers can handle it. It would just be adult realistic fiction I think. Go for it, especially if that is your gut feeling.

  2. I think it depends on what you're going for. In the end, it's all about what you want your reader to feel. If you want an evocative, emotional, "make-you-think-and-appreciate-life" ending, go for the death. If you want a contented sigh, a happily-ever-after, or a pleasant, cozy read--go with the lack of death. It really depends on your audience.
    The Notebook is a great deal different from You've Got Mail. Both are good but you've got major different audiences. Either is great. The fun is that you get to choose.

  3. cool idea! I should publish my MMW's posts on my own site, too!!

  4. The above are good comments. I think if what's in your head says 'kill her', then you should follow your gut instinct.